Cuba has launched a bold policy of oil development that could turn the country into an important supplier of fuel in the Caribbean — and the United States, should the embargo be lifted in the future.
But world economic turmoil might sidetrack Venezuela's commitment to underwrite the multimillion-dollar projects in Cuban refineries and ports.
Cuba's oil strategy consists of processing about 350,000 barrels of crude daily and supplying the big demand for oil byproducts in nearby countries beginning in 2013, according to sources in the Ministry of Basic Industry and the state-run oil firm Cuba Petroleo.
In a post-embargo era, one of the principal beneficiaries could be the U.S., an importer of crude and derivatives with a refinement capacity that covers 81 percent of its domestic demand.
However, the plans drawn up in 2005 during Venezuela's economic boom are today in trouble.
A drastic fall in Venezuela's oil revenues during the first few months of this year, operational difficulties in the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and the liquidity problems affecting Hugo Chávez's government are not good news for the Cuban projects, which require a $10.8 billion investment between now and 2015.
Chávez and Cuban President Raúl Castro will travel this week to Basseterre, the capital of St. Christopher and Nevis, to participate in the Sixth Summit of Petrocaribe.
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